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Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Gift of giving a great help to organizations

A week ago (it was still July then; where has the summer gone?) I told you about the series of lectures that are regularly offered by the “Leave a Legacy in Lake County” partners.

The repertoire consists of four topics at the moment. It will be expanded soon — perhaps even without notice.

Now being offered throughout the county are “The Marvelous Mansions of Lake County,” “The Remarkable Ladies of Lake County,” “Road to Freedom” (the story of the underground railroad in the county), and “Betcha Didn’t Know about Lake County.”

Each presentation, about an hour long (or less if necessary to fit the schedule of a service organization), is narrated by Kathie Purmal, executive director of the Lake County Historical Society.

On almost every occasion, it falls upon me to introduce her and say a few words about the Legacy series.

Sometimes, some of the other partners chip in to offer their insights into the process of charitable giving. For that is the purpose of the programs/lectures — to encourage members of the audience to remember their favorite non-profit organizations in their wills.

Kathie, a storyteller par excellence, spins the yarns on the above-noted topics. Legacy members point out why it is important to give support to non-profits, to sustain them and make them viable for future generations to enjoy.

The Legacy non-profit members are the Lakeland Foundation, the Lake County Council on Aging, the Lake County Historical Society , the Lake-Geauga Fund of the Cleveland Foundation, the Holden Arboretum and the Lake Health Foundation.

There are many ways that these non-profits can be given support, either by direct contributions or by mentioning them in a will.

Kathie talks about many of the millionaires who left their marks in Lake County, making it a better place to live. John D. Rockefeller, Harry Coulby, Fergus Squire, the Corrigan Family, the McKinney Family and Leonard Hanna are but a few who did so much to enrich the lives of others.

But as I always point out, you don’t need to be one of these philanthropists of legend to leave your legacy in Lake County.

Anybody, and I mean anybody — and everybody — has the means, in some small way if not in a large way, to leave an imprint on the county — most often by mentioning a favorite charity in a will.

It does not have to be one of the Legacy members that is a benefactor. It can be your church, or as I often point out, the Lake County YMCA, the Fine Arts Association or any other favored non-profit that tugs at your heart strings.

Not long ago, a woman who had a few thousand dollars she wanted to donate to a worthy organization chose the Lake County Blue Coats Inc. to be the recipient of her largesse.

Perfect! Exactly the kind of benevolence I am talking about! Just a few thousand dollars, left in a will, can be of major help to one of these organizations. When you are drawing up your will, think about it.

If you have an attorney, an accountant or an estate-planner, that professional can help you in creating a gift to benefit a non-profit organization that could use your help.

Some of the bequests are easy to give and some are a little more complicated and require professional help.

For example, there are retirement plan assets, living trusts, charitable remainder trusts, charitable remainder unitrusts, charitable gift annuities, insurance programs and others that include real estate options.

Planned giving has many benefits. The gifts can “change the world” by making a difference in lives, serve as a way to memorialize a loved one (or yourself), bring significant tax benefits now or in the future, or provide increased income through life income gift plans.

One of the greatest benefits comes with the knowledge that you are making a difference.

Everyone should have a will. I have one. And although I am a person of modest means, I have made provisions for my three favorite non-profits — the Lake County YMCA, the Fine Arts Association of Willoughby and the Lakeland Foundation.

If you have any questions, or would like to explore leaving your own legacy, you can call 440-525-7094.

You might be surprised at what you are able to do to help others — all within your own means — and to feel good about it.


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